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Transit cuts put jobs out of reach of workers without cars

Transit cuts put jobs out of reach of workers without cars

Report says 13,000 more in Milwaukee area will be inaccessible

By Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel

More than 13,000 jobs would be out of reach for Milwaukee County residents without cars, if county officials adopt recommended cuts in bus service, a new report warns.

If County Executive Chris Abele and the County Board slice the bus routes targeted in the Milwaukee County Transit System’s 2012 budget request, at least 13,553 jobs would be inaccessible by public transit, according to an analysis of the service cuts by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development.

“One likely consequence of implementing the proposed service reductions for 2012 would be to make it difficult or impossible for transit-dependent workers and job-seekers in Milwaukee to reach many job locations in suburban Milwaukee County,” wrote the study’s author, Joel Rast, director of the center. “Given Milwaukee’s already high poverty and jobless rates, especially for African-Americans, this scenario is particularly troublesome.”

The study, released last week, drew concern from two county supervisors. The supervisors and Abele blamed Madison for the bus system’s plight.

Following the recommendation of Gov. Scott Walker, the Legislature cut aid to transit systems statewide by 10% in the 2011-’13 state budget. That will be a $6.8 million cut for Milwaukee County next year, partly offset by $1.45 million in new aid for the Transit Plus service for disabled and elderly riders. Together with other revenue shortfalls and rising expenses, the transit system is facing a $15 million budget hole for 2012.

In their budget request, transit officials recommended eliminating six Freeway Flyer routes, regular Route 68 (Port Washington Road) and five school routes; ending most service to Summerfest, other festivals and Milwaukee Brewers home games; and reducing service on other routes.

Transit advocates have held a series of community meetings to rally opposition to the cuts. At 1 p.m. Wednesday, the bus drivers union will lead a “death march” for the transit system, starting at the corner of N. Water St. and W. Wisconsin Ave.

Although some of the service reductions wouldn’t affect access to jobs, others would have a major impact, the study found. Ending Route 68 would cut off access to at least 3,803 jobs, including all of those in Fox Point and Bayside and at Cardinal Stritch University, while shortening Route 27 (27th St.) would block access to at least 2,170 jobs, many of them at the Glendale Industrial Park, wrote Rast, a UWM associate professor of political science and urban studies.

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